Mental health delays criticised over High Wycombe death

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Delays in the mental health care of an arrested man who died after a cocaine package ruptured in his body have been criticised by an independent watchdog.

Marcus Cottoy, 31, of High Wycombe, was arrested on suspicion of criminal damage in March 2009.

He was sectioned under the Mental Health Act and died in hospital.

The Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC) said Thames Valley Police acted professionally but a mental health assessment was delayed.

Mr Cottoy was arrested and taken to Amersham police station in the early hours of 21 March.

The IPCC said it found that custody staff regularly checked on him and at 0630 GMT Mr Cottoy told a police doctor that he had been on a cocaine binge.

'Increasingly agitated'

The doctor recorded that Mr Cottoy was agitated, paranoid and required a full mental health assessment, which the IPCC found did not happen until 1100 GMT when a mental health team visited the police station and sectioned him.

Mr Cottoy became "increasingly agitated" en route to the psychiatric unit, shouting at officers, twisting his handcuffs and banging into the sides of the detention cage, the IPCC said.

On arrival at 1345 GMT he remained in the police van for 40 minutes because of his aggressive behaviour, while staff worked out an admission plan.

IPCC Commissioner Mike Franklin said: "I am concerned that it took more than four hours for the mental health team to arrive.

"I believe it would have been distressing for Mr Cottoy to be kept in a cell for this extra length of time and it also put additional pressure and demands on police resources.

"The amount of time that it took to admit Mr Cottoy to the psychiatric unit was a source of frustration and concern for the police officers involved."

The IPCC recommended a formal protocol be agreed between police and Oxford and Buckinghamshire NHS Mental Health Trust (OBMH) to ensure detainees received treatment as soon as possible.

Mr Franklin said he had been informed that the recommendations had been addressed.

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